Official partner calls for cancellation of Tokyo Olympic Games

·4-min read
In this picture, protesters in Tokyo call on the Olympic Games to be cancelled.
Protesters take to the streets in Tokyo to call on the Olympic Games to be cancelled. Pic: Getty

Discontent in Japan around this year's Tokyo Olympic Games has ramped up after one of the official partners called on the Prime Minister to cancel the global showpiece.

Japan's Asahi Shimbun, an official partner of the Tokyo Games, has called for it to be cancelled, citing risks to public safety and strains on the medical system from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We ask Prime Minister (Yoshihide) Suga to calmly and objectively assess the situation and decide on the cancellation of the event this summer," the national newspaper said in an editorial published on Wednesday.

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Much of Japan, including Games host city, Tokyo, remains under a third state of emergency that is widely expected to be extended beyond this month.

Poll after poll has shown the majority of the public is opposed to holding the Olympics this summer, concerned about tens of thousands of athletes and officials descending on a country that has mostly remained closed to foreigners since last year.

By early morning on Wednesday, "Decision to cancel", taken from the title of the Asahi newspaper's editorial, had garnered more than 21,000 tweets.

In a recent survey conducted by Japan's national newspaper, 83% of respondents said they believed the Games should be either canceled (43%) or postponed a second time (40%). 

The figures marked a combined 14-point jump from April, when 69% supported cancelling or postponing the Games.

It comes after the United States this week reaffirmed its support for Tokyo's plan to hold the Olympic Games this summer and for US athletes competing there despite a new wave of coronavirus cases and a US travel advisory for Japan.

"Our position has not changed on the Olympics," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

"The government has stressed that public health remains a central priority as they plan to host the Games."

On Tuesday, a US State Department spokesperson said President Joe Biden supports "the US athletes who have trained for these Games and will be competing in the best traditions of the Olympic spirit".

The White House had already issued a statement in April during a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga saying that Biden supported Tokyo's efforts to hold a safe Olympics.

But a fourth wave of novel coronavirus infections in Japan led the State Department to issue a "Do Not Travel" advisory for the country on Monday.

Covid vaccination rates slow in Japan 

The US advisory and guidance for Japan did not mention plans for the Olympics, which is scheduled to start on July 23, but warned against visiting the country now. 

Japanese officials said they did not anticipate any effect on the Games from the travel advisory.

Japan, which has recorded more than 700,000 infections and 12,000 deaths from the virus, has delivered vaccinations to just under 5% of its population. 

That is the slowest rate among the world's larger, rich countries.

Seen here speaking to the media is Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has faced calls to cancel the Tokyo Games. Pic: Getty

Japan has been forced to declare a state of emergency across large swathes of the country, with case numbers surging and vaccinations lagging.

Olympics officials say athletes will be encouraged but not required to be vaccinated prior to competition, with a series of measures set to be implemented to prevent the spread of the virus.

The International Olympic Committee and local organisers continue to insist that the Games are on track to go ahead as scheduled, from July 23.

"We are moving full ahead," IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said last week. 

"There has been a small extension of the emergency situation (in Japan), but we continue to plan for full Games. That’s the way it has to be, and that’s the only way it can be for us."

Those comments come despite a fresh surge in coronavirus cases in Japan, where the average number of daily new cases has jumped more than 500% since the start of March.

Japan did not start inoculating its residents until mid-February and is still in the process of distributing vaccines to its most vulnerable populations, including health-care workers and senior citizens.

Its expected that Japan will have finished vaccinating its high-risk populations by July but even then, a large chunk of the country is not expected to be inoculated.

with agencies

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